Wednesday, November 13, 2019

2018-2019 Albums of the Year

2018-2019, or most of 2019 albums

A lot of records came out, some highly anticipated, some a long time in the making.

I probably will write more about this in the coming weeks, possibly with the decade ending too, but like many years, my ability to consume music is not at what I would like. My job requires more time without headphones and I also still listen to a lot of YouTube Video Audio Rips and Podcasts along with talk radio.

Plus moving/buying a house, worrying about bills, budgets, medical issues (both mine, my wife, mother-in-law and dog) kind of puts trivial things like music into perspective.

Even just seeing less concerts and buying less music (vinyl). YouTube even has taken a back seat (not that there has ever been a huge amount of activity on my channel, but with a house finally, maybe their could me more?).

But from what I did listen to, I think 2018-2019 was good, but not incredible. I think many albums came out from artists I wasn't aware of, or never was a fan of previously, and I enjoyed or became a fan of.

That I guess is the best thing I take away from this year in Albums and music.

As I say every year, NEXT YEAR COULD BE HUGE, and who knows, it may or may not. But potentially I am more excited for 2019-2020/2020 than any year since at least 2014-2015 if not longer ago than then.

Also a key note: I am taking a liberty on my #1 with the release date, and I am starting to think of MODIFYING the deadline to maybe December 1st, or later. Or maybe just make year-by-year exceptions in the circumstance of this year, an album that was officially released on November 8th is so good, I can't in my heart, not include it. Also in some ways, the album(s) at #0 kind offset that i.e. that album should have been in this year anyway, so I replaced it in a way with another album that came out sooner.

blech, tl;dr the 10/31/19 deadline has an exception and some others were as an exception, not included.

0. Dirt Poor Robins - Dead Horse, Alaska (Red)/(Gold) [EP]

This is not my album of the year or co album(s)/eps, per the entire Dead Horse, Alaska album is coming out sometime in 2020. I forget, April/Spring? may have been what Neil mentioned a few months back.

But I will say this, these 2 eps I may have listened to the most this year, or at least I was prepared to put them as #1 before learning the whole thing would be released together.

They are fantastic and some of the best music Dirt Poor Robins have ever made. But I won't go that much more into detail, and save it for 2020. Also not just the complete Dead Horse, Alaska is coming, but the 3rd EP is also supposed to come, titled Dead Horse, Alaska (Black). When? I imagine early in 2020 before the full album release.

1. Vonavi - Reflection
So I am biting the bullet a bit here and deciding after hearing the singles, and now the whole record, this album is just too good to wait to praise.

It's breathtaking, moody, atmospheric, melancholy, CINEMATIC, electronic, and incredibly well mixed.

I have been taking it in for a few days now, and I hate, HATE to only have given it such a short listening-time life, but I am one of those music listeners who know when an album wins me over really early.

Run Rivers and some of the other singers add a lot to these emotional layers of synths, bass tones and other instrumentation.

Is it Rock music? not really, although there are some drums/percussion.

Does it have a lot of amazing musicianship? no.

But I am at times totally won over by ESCAPING SOMEWHERE with an album. Even just songs/musical pieces ("Songs" have to have *singing* which maybe only half of the tracks have on Reflection).

I mean in hearing the 1st 3 singles/videos "Sunburst" "I Fear for You" and "Regrow" I knew I could potentially really enjoy whenever Vonavi released his full-length album. And it was definitely a case of a debut album meeting, or even exceeding hopes.

The track "Full of Lies" is breathtaking. The singer Jack Hawitt gives as beautiful a vocal performance as anything I heard this year.

Lorna Rose and Run Rivers vocals keep drawing me back to their work on this.

Is is a concept album? maybe. I dunno. Watching the 3 videos/shorts made from the songs,

I can see a theme with them.

Sunburst's "After the rain, I find myself, reaching out..." 
could tie in to
All in Your Eyes "So many stories send shivers down my spine" 
which also could tie in to
Regrow's "Why we Gotta Fall so Far to Get Through This."

And even the added instrumental tracks like "Calling," "Her," "Moan," and "Everyday" all have like a connecting mood of someone's story arc, journey, coming-of-age, or maybe THERAPY of dealing with something traumatic and time healing all wounds, etc.

I would say, while this album isn't one to uplift or even includes a lot of meaty tracks to go back to, it scores an A+ for capturing my imagination. My love, yearning for escaping into another place, dimension, time, or just someone or many COMPELLING STORIES of healing and therapy.

And to think, this Ukrainian songwriter/producer is just 21. Assuming he keeps making music, I am going to be incredibly intrigued with whatever he does next.

Also Run Rivers who is also known best as Chris Bridges from the band Stateless. Run Rivers has been busy working with many artists of late, and his talents are on display here and many other projects.

Jack Hawitt and Lorna Rose? they are 2 others who also I want to hear more from.

2. Foals - Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost (Parts 1-2)
This is Foals most consistent album track-2-track. All 20 tracks really.

I know they released these 2 collections of songs, the way they did for a reason, but I see it all as 1 big double album. Highlights: Exits, White Onions, Syrups (the build in that is unbelievable), On the Luna, Sunday, In Degrees, Neptune (all 15 minutes), Black Bull, The Runner, Dreaming Of...

I love every Foals album though, but I think they kind of captured a lot of the best elements of What Went Down and Holy Fire on this one. It's catchy, it's electronic, it's heavy, it's dynamic. And like I said, it's really consistent for me. And it is of course 20 tracks, thus it's longer than their last 2 records.

I mean I suppose it may not have as many all-time classics like those other 2, or especially Total Life Forever and Antidotes, but it's an album that I put it on and just want to hear it all.

They are just so consistent with their songwriting and albums, something I can't say with many other working bands/artists today. As I said back when Part 1 came out, I don't know if there's a band that matches their level of consistency over the last decade. If so, it's not a long list.

3. Arch / Matheos - Winter Ethereal
The truth about this is, I listened to this album for like a week and loved nearly all of it. And then I kind of went on to other things.

But I immediately found it a bit better than Sympathetic Resonance, which considering my love of Arch and Jim Matheos, says a lot.

"Straight and Narrow" is so well composed and really heavy. Maybe heavier than anything Jim Matheos has done. But it doesn't overstay its welcome.

"Tethered" is about as accessible and melodic a song John Arch has ever done, and I think it totally works. I am a sucker/lover of hearing him sing, especially more toned-down. Kind of like "Guardian" or something.

"Vermilion Moons" and "Kindred Spirits" are 2 of the prog metal pieces that standout.

"Wanderlust," "Wrath of the Universe," and "Solitary Man" all add to how rich and fulfilling this album is. A bit deeper than Sympathetic Resonance in terms of songs to choose from. It's maybe a little more song-oriented than the previous album for that reason.

And it was 8 years ago their 1st official album came out, and it could be the last record John Arch makes given his life and schedule. If so, it is a great swan song for sure.

4. Ours - New Age Heroine II
"Fly" is an Ours classic. "Get You On Your Feet So You Can Fly" is so funky, epic and inspiring all at the same time. I would easily put it in my top 10 Ours songs in fact.

I'm a fanboy, so naturally I loved a lot of this album, especially considering it was almost 6 years after Ballet the Boxer I.

"Pain Aside" is another catchy tune Jimmy won me over with.

"Kill Me" "Made to Love" and the title track are also some of the go-to's here.

I mean it has a good number of slower, ballads that the hardcore fans love. I am kind of hit and miss with them, but I think overall, they grew on me enough to enjoy this album maybe as much as Ballet the Boxer I.

I dunno if it'll be fair, but when what may be a double album coming in 2020, Spectacular Sight III, this may not be as remembered. But I have found with a lot of Ours music, it can age rather well at times.

5. Local Natives - Violet Street
I initially was thrown off by this album with its looping and dynamic mixing, vocal distortion and samples even with  various sound effects and percussion.

I have been a fan of this band for over 10 years and have faith in them to give them benefit of the doubt.

And by doing that, this ended up maybe being my 2nd favorite record of theirs.

"When am I gonna Lose You" has such a great hook and memorable chorus. It is kind of dance-able and soars at times. It reminds me a little bit of The Family Crest actually ("Never Gonna Stop").

I guess the flow and experiments grew on me. Taylor Rice's performance on this album may be his best, and the use of Vocal Harmonies are still present on many tracks.

"Cafe Amarillo" "I don't want to die before I learn to live"

"Shy" "Gulf Shores" ("I remember, California") and "Someday Now" all include memorable moments that I grew to appreciate.

6. Barock Project - Seven Seas

Another great epic prog record, with a lot of deep, rich layers and melodies. It varies in songs that are very string-driven, to other that feature heavier guitars.

The style I suppose doesn't vary incredibly from their last record Detachment, which I often saw as having a big Kansas influence, but also using folk/renaissance type tones as well.

7. Owel - Paris

Great songwriting, like Mew and Aereogramme among some others.

"Get Out Stay Out" is as great a track to be released in 2019.

8. Moron Police - A Boat on the Sea

Great to see Moron Police comeback after 5 years. This album is more prog rock, and less metal (if at all), than their previous albums.

The production, humor, and crazy drum work all standout here.

9. 22 - You Are Creating Limb 2
A good continuation of Limb 1.
"Call Me Trimtab" and "Chroma Key" are favorites.

10. The Claypool/Lennon Delirium - South of Reality
A Pleasant surprise from 2 musicians I know of course, but have never been incredibly into.
I recall seeing their previous record referenced, but had not heard.

This album has a ton of trippy, dreamy, funky, blues-rock moments as you might expect. The weird, humorous moments are kept in check from Claypool, compared to his work with Primus. And Sean Lennon's guitar work and vocals do just enough to give this a lot of charm.

The 60's/70's Psych/Floyd/Latter Beatles works well here, in some ways like it does with Pepe Deluxe among others.

"Little Fishes" "Amesthyst Realm" "Boriska" and

"Cricket Chronicles" with its Middle Eastern vibe and the almost epic-prog piece
"Blood and Rockets, Movement I, Saga of Jack Parsons, Movement II, Too the Moon" are the biggest bangers on this album.

This album is really a good retro trip back to the late 60's in 2019.

11. Mutemath - Voice in the Silence [EP] 
A collection of older tunes from the Reset, S/T and Armistice periods. Every track is good here. Very atmospheric with a lot of great Darren King and Paul Meany moments to enjoy.

"Work of Art" the title track and "EN 2018" are probably my favorites.

12. Bjorn Riis - A Storm is Coming

Epic work that the latter half I enjoyed especially. This album and I guess all of his records carry a pretty strong In Absentia/Deadwing era Porcupine Tree influence, but like Kingbathmat or even say Shelter Red, I don't find it hurts the quality of the music.

13. Courtney Swain - Between Blood and Ocean

Enjoyable solo album from Courtney Swain of Bent Knee. Less schizophrenic than BK, and I guess that is 1 reason i enjoyed this more than the new Bent Knee album.

14. Thank You Scientist - Terraformer

Long, busy album, which is kind of the recipe this band has for all their albums. I guess with good production and enough moments to look-forward to, this is the 1st TYS album I have enjoyed.

FXMLDR is the biggest banger for me. The instrumental hook, plus the vocals chorus that comes in later is catchy as hell.

"Looks like you finally made it How I've anticipated Your return to planet Earth
Light years away, you've made it There's no more contemplating"

plus the sax and violin add a lot.

"Swarm" "Son of a Serpent" 'Birdwatching" and 'Everyday Ghosts" all have moments I dig.

Their singer sounds as much like Chris Ruff of Kaddisfly as Claudio Sanchez actually, which while I still find his voice not so original, but I'm not as bugged by it on this album. I think part of it is the instrumental sections work enough, that it offsets it. And he sounds better overall. Either just from a writing vocal-lines standpoint, or just a tonality standpoint.

It's a massively long album, but the best moments are worth getting to.

15. Motorpsycho - The Crucible
I love the King Crimson and Soft Machine elements on this album, mainly on the 2nd and 3rd epic tracks "Lux Aerterna" and "The Crucible." Great horn arrangements!

16. Disillusion - The Liberation
"Wintertide" is probably the biggest highlight. Layered, dynamic epic metal. Somewhat like Green Carnation or Subterranean Masquerade.

Great to finally have them release a full-length after 13 years. It might be higher had they included the incredible "Alea" but so be it.

17. Northern Abbey - Ceremonies [EP]

Another wonderful, emotional collection of tunes from Nick Lambert from Falling Up.

This release also includes the work of Jessy Ribordy.

"Daylight" and "Glimmerings" are probably my biggest favorites.

I would say, in some ways, this release captures a lot of the warm, cinematic, melancholy elements that the Vonavi album does. I am a total sucker for those. Call it fetal-position, or just call it giving me a tool to imagine a dream somewhere else, but it can almost get spiritual at times.

18. Flying Colors - Third Degree

The songs and musicianship is here, maybe more than their 2 others.

"Love Letter" is a super catchy power-pop number. I would love an entire album of tunes like that someday from Flying Colors or something else Mike Portnoy does.

19. Sheena Ringo - 三毒史 (Sandokushi)

20. Cousin Tony's Brand New Firebird - New Romancer
This album has a lot of nightlife-night-on-the-town electronic atmosphere.

Kind of how Indietronica can get. The layers with the charming, baritone? David Bowie-like vocals in some ways. Some of the best moments are with the use of what sounds-like sax and piano (might be synths?, I dunno).

Is it a dance album? not exactly. Is it a rock album? not exactly. It just has a great melodic, synthy charm to it. It is another example of a band whose name, got me curious, and actually worked.

I wonder if whenever I am in a mood for some fun, moody electronic-music, I will go-to this album. Definitely falls under the Apes and Androids or NewVillager umbrella.

21. Leprous - Pitfalls

Some amazing melodic and proggy moments. Not as much Metal, but the blend of musicianship and somewhat original songwriting works well enough for me to enjoy.

22. Bent Knee - You Know What They Mean

Some of the singles work, however the noise rock tracks I don't see wanting to revisit again.

Not an awful album, but I can't say at this point I enjoy this as much as their last 3 albums.

23. Ray Alder - What the Water Wanted
Nice solo record from Ray, which doesn't sound a lot like current Fates Warning, but maybe more like Inside Out or even say Promised Land era Queensryche.

"Crown of Thorns" is maybe the biggest ear worm.

24. Jolly - Family

Some cool moments on this album, and maybe the Jolly album I enjoy the most.

I have memory of driving 1 day and listening to "Rain" and it suddenly clicked with me how sad and beautiful that song is. I almost began to cry.

25. Tuxedo - Tuxedo III

Probably the best Tuxedo album to date. "The Tuxedo Way" is funky as hell in a Chic "Good Times" sort of way.

"On a Good One" is a helluva banger. So catchy, and so 70's or early 80's sounding.

I listened to this album, almost as much as any record in the last 12 months per my wife is a Mayer Hawthorne-fangirl and we saw Tuxedo live a few months back.

The flow and songwriting is just up a notch from their other 2.

"Dreaming in the Daytime" "Extra Texture" "If U Want It" "Vibrations" are all great tunes that have a cool sheen and energy to them.

26. Jon Anderson - 1000 Hands
Came out maybe about as well as expected, some 25+ years in the making.

A ton of guests musicians (like 1000 in fact? lol).

"Ramalama" "Makes Me Happy" and "1000 Hands (Come Up" are my favorites. Love a lot of the world music elements here among others.

Less sappy or repetitive than many of Jon's other recent works (excluding Open which I LOVE).

27. Dan Moxon - Lounge Singer

Jazzy, poppy, singer/songwriter release from Dan Moxon of Bend Sinister.

28. Erthlings - Indigo [EP]
I enjoy every track of this debut EP from this Warpaint-the Next Generation band seems like.

Dreamy, trippy, melodic, all-female led Post Rock.

"Go Ahead" and "Cuts and Bruises" are the favorites.

29. Black Belt Eagle Scout -  At the Party With My Brown Friends

30. The Mercury Tree - Spidermilk
Entirely in Micro-tonal tuning using 17 notes per octave, which is rather forward-thinking or inventive in some ways.

It's odd how I enjoy this as unusual it gets. I'll listen and wonder why I enjoy it, but afterwards, I think, that wasn't bad somehow.

I mean I didn't get attached to it, but at the same time, I'm left with wanting to listen to it more because it didn't lose me.

This album may be one in 5 or 10 years, I could love.

31. Rocco of the Snow - Prime Mover
Keyboardist from Kindo's brand of melodic Indietronica.  Enjoyable, maybe more when I saw him open for Kindo. But still, many enjoyable, atmospheric pop/rock tunes.

32. Big Wreck - But for the Sun
Another good record from Big Wreck. Their 3rd or 4th since coming back after many years, in 2012?.

"Locomotive" and "Alibi" are 2 of the best tunes on this album.

33. Snarky Puppy - Immigrance

Another fun, jazzy-fusiony album from Snarky. Some Dream Theater and Pat Metheny -like moments included.

34. Dream Theater - Distance Over Time

"Fall Into the Light" is 1 of the best tunes Dream Theater has written in the last decade. Great flow, the musicianship and solo(s) work really well.

"Barstool Warrior" and "Pale Blue Dot" are the other big highlights.

A nice comeback considering what they did with The Astonishing.

However, that's as far as this has gone for me thus far.

35. iamthemorning - The Bell

36. East of the Wall - NP-Complete

37. Equipose - Demiurgus

38. Biffy Clyro -  Balance, Not Symmetry (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

39. Glasys - Defective Humanity

The tune "People" which features Todd Rundgren is really good.

40. Hiromi - Spectrum
Epic record, which includes some covers like The Beatles "Blackbird" and Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" which goes for like 15 or more minutes.

Enjoyable jazz, that is just Hiromi at the piano, which is different but still works for her.

41. The Pneumatic Transit - Chordae Tendineae

Another experimental Jazz-Jazz-Rock/Avant Garde release from The Pneumatic Transit.

Initial Review is here

and that covers most of the details. I think this album is similar but different enough to not find Jeff Zampillo and the band aren't repeating themselves.

42. Cats in Space - Day Trip to Narnia

Fun sort of modern AOR. Not their best, but enjoyable. The Chronicles of Narnia is an interesting subject matter, although it's still rock music, so the fantasy element only is channeled so far.

43. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard - Fishing for Fishies
Quirky as always. "Cyboogie" is fun for a few minutes at least.

I still need to hear Infest the Rats Nest as noted below.

44. Sermon - Birth of the Marvellous
45. Steve Hackett - At the Edge of Light
46. The Bird and the Bee - Interpreting the Masters Vol.2 Van Halen
47. Negroni's Trio - Acoustico
48. The New Pornographers - In the Morse Code of Brake Lights
49. Friendly Fires - Inflorescent
50. Tinlicker - This is Not Our Universe
51. The Hu Band - The Gereg
52, Muse - Simulation Theory
53, Gavin Castleton - Weak Ltd.
54. Buke and Gase - Scholars
55. Robyn Hitchcock and Andy Partridge - Planet England (EP)
56. Mind Cinema - Sleep Clinic
57. Facing New York - Dogtown
58. Amanda Palmer - There Will Be No Intermission
59. Queensryche - The Verdict
60. Dan Mangan - More or Less
61. Paige Drobot - Zero Thought [EP]
62. Blue Hawaii - Open Reduction Internal Fixation
63. Tropical Fuck Storm - Braindrops
64. ZW Band - If it's Real
65. Masvidal - Mythical

Still Haven't Heard but mean to:
Alcest - Spiritual Instinct
Alter Bridge - Walk the Sky
Banco del Mutuo Soccorso - Transiberiana
Battles - Juice B Crypts
The Contortionist - Our Bones [EP]
Kai Danzberg -Welcome to Euphoria
Iapetus - The Body Cosmic
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard - Infest The Rats' Nest
Alan Parsons - The Secret
Radical Face - Therapy [EP]
Refused - War Music
Raphael Saadiq - Jimmy Lee
The Tea Club - If / When
Wilderun - Veil of Imagination
Wilco - Ode to Joy

Long Distance Calling - Stummfilm: Live From Hamburg
Michael Nesmith and Red Rhodes - Cosmic Partners
3 - Live at Bearsville Theater, Woodstock, NY

Opeth - In Cauda Venenum
Tool - Fear Inoculum